John Hinckley, Who Tried to Kill Reagan, Will Be Released

July 28th, 2016 by Staff

WASHINGTON — John W. Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will be allowed to live permanently with his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Va., leaving the psychiatric hospital where he has been imprisoned for several decades, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Paul L. Friedman of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia wrote in his opinion that Mr. Hinckley, 61, no longer posed a danger to himself or others. The release should begin no sooner than Aug. 5, the judge said.

Although Mr. Hinckley has been living part time in Williamsburg for years, family and friends of Reagan’s said they were outraged that he would be allowed to reside there permanently.

“I think it’s terribly sad and wrong,” Patti Davis, one of Reagan’s daughters, said in a telephone interview. In a blog post on her website, Ms. Davis wrote that she had long been haunted by the shooting.

“If John Hinckley is haunted by anything, I think it’s that he didn’t succeed in his mission to assassinate the president,” Ms. Davis wrote.

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In a news conference on Wednesday, Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, also denounced the release.

“And by the way, David Hinckley should not have been freed, O.K.?” Mr. Trump said. When someone said that the man’s name was John Hinckley, Mr. Trump corrected himself.

Court Documents Granting the Release of John W. Hinckley Jr.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which has consistently opposed Mr. Hinckley’s appeals for greater freedom, said it was reviewing the ruling. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service, which sometimes secretly follows Mr. Hinckley while he is on supervised release, said the agency would not comment.

Since 2014, Judge Friedman has allowed Mr. Hinckley to have 17-day stays in Williamsburg, where he has voluntary jobs doing landscaping at a Unitarian church and working in the library and cafeteria of a psychiatric hospital. He has also taken up bowling, attends lectures and outdoor concerts, and exercises regularly at a community center.

Mr. Hinckley will have restrictions. He will have to work or volunteer at least three days a week, and if he fails to show up, his absence must be reported to the authorities. He must live with his mother for at least the first year and carry a cellphone that tracks his movements.

The judge forbade Mr. Hinckley from speaking to or contacting the news media, and he can drive unaccompanied only within a 30-mile radius of Williamsburg, although he can also drive by himself to monthly hospital appointments in the Washington area.

Mr. Hinckley was once psychotic and depressed. After seeing the 1976 film “Taxi Driver,” in which a disturbed man plots to assassinate a presidential candidate, he became fixated on Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in the film.

Mr. Hinckley began to identify with the main character in the film, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro.

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After Ms. Foster entered Yale University, Mr. Hinckley moved to New Haven to be close to her and left notes, letters and poems at her dormitory. Failing to win her affections, Mr. Hinckley stalked President Jimmy Carter and was eventually arrested on firearms charges. After the 1980 election, Mr. Hinckley stalked the newly elected President Reagan in an attempt to impress Ms. Foster.

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